‘MORE can be done’ to stop people facing a choice between going hungry or freezing in the winter.
That is the view of the Bishop of Chichester, who has joined dozens of his fellows in urging the prime minister to ensure people have enough to eat.
An open letter to David Cameron, signed by 43 Christian leaders, including 27 Anglican bishops, said ‘failures in the benefit system’ had led to several people facing a choice between ‘heat or eat’ during the winter.
The letter has called for a day of fasting on April 4.
Speaking after the letter was published, Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner said: “The choice between heating or eating is an unacceptable one.
“More must be done to help those on the margins who are struggling to feed their children as well as themselves.
“I fully recognise the political and economic ramifications of coming up with a system which better caters for those who fall between just managing and not managing at all. But more can be done.
“People can help by registering their interest and taking positive action by joining the national day of fasting on April 4.”
The letter to the prime minister began: “Sir – Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry.
“Half-a-million people have visited foodbanks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year.”
It goes on to say: “We must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using foodbanks have been put in that situation by cutbacks to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions.”
The letter said there was an ‘acute moral imperative’ to act and called on government to investigate food markets that were failing, to make sure that work paid and to ensure the welfare system provided a ‘robust last line of defence against hunger’.
A spokeswoman for the Chichester diocese said the letter was just the ‘first step’ of a response to rising hunger from foodbank volunteers, church groups and poverty activists around the UK who were united to launch the End Hunger Fast campaign.
The campaign encourages people to fast for a day on April 4 and to donate to foodbanks and volunteer their time there.